In the last years of the Tsarist empire, the Russia was among the world’s largest producers of raw materials, but both the extraction and the scarce industries were managed mainly by foreigners, with the exception of the textile industry, present mainly in Moscow. After the revolution and some years dominated by a ‘war’ economy, a new economic policy (NEP) was developed by VI Lenin, mainly to stimulate greater agricultural production. In the following years the productions increased, which allowed the government of I. Stalin to adopt a policy more in line with the Bolshevik theory. From 1928 plans (five-year or seven-year) were drawn up, with the aim of increasing public welfare, rapidly raising the material and cultural levels of workers and strengthening independence and defense capabilities. State revenues, investments, sectoral and territorial transfers of the workforce were planned according to the plan’s objectives and to intermediate, annual objectives, necessary to introduce adjustments during the course of the plan. The intentions were excellent, their realization was not the same. The needs of infrastructure (communications, electrification), the development of heavy industry and defense took precedence over all the rest; the resources were taken to the detriment of agriculture, which failed to develop despite phases of heavy investment, and the socio-economic conditions of the population, which remained stably very modest. Significant achievements were achieved such as full employment (partly, in effect, disguised underemployment), mass literacy, extensive forms of social security, thus managing to eliminate age-old misery and the most serious inequalities; but the system rarely reached the established production objectives, did not allow forms of capital accumulation and therefore investments, did not pursue innovation. In the 1960s there was a greater, albeit uncertain, opening towards the production of consumer goods, while the increase in contacts with the West clearly showed that the system had not achieved the objective of overcoming economies in development. and that, on the contrary, the gap which in the 1950s had seemed almost filled had begun to widen dramatically.
● In the 1990s, in a very short time, the previous mode of production was demolished, but without being able to replace it with a more efficient one: the economic turning point, crack of 1998 and international speculations on the ruble, launched a real estate market and the consequent land speculation, encouraged individual and collective antisocial behavior; the sale abroad, at break-up prices, of raw materials of all kinds (including part of the state gold reserves) and the contraction of domestic demand allowed for a fair trade surplus, which, however, was not able to balance the enormous public debt. In the mid-1990s there was the phase of most evident worsening of general conditions (30% of the population was below the poverty line, life expectancy was around 63 years, infant mortality had risen to 20 ‰).
● The economic situation then began to recover slowly, both due to the spontaneous adjustment of market mechanisms, both for the modest inflow of foreign productive investments and for the more substantial one of international credits, and for the fight against the most serious illegal economic behaviors; but above all because public and private capital of a monopolistic nature (allied with political powers) provided for a rationalization of production structures, giving rise to cartels (for example in the banking and oil fields), or to de facto monopolies (natural gas), which emptied the liberal imprint of substance, but restored contractual weight to strategic sectors and re-evaluated their negotiating skills. The reorganization of the economy also led to a modernization in the distribution of assets: services now (2008) absorb 62.4% of the workforce, agriculture 10%, industry about a quarter.
● The general trend is towards the further rationalization of the mining and energy sectors (the most profitable), but also towards the re-establishment of social security conditions, the adjustment of production destined for internal consumption, and the revitalization of the sectors with the greatest impact technological, also to avoid the definitive dispersion of human capital, in research activities, which has characteristics of excellence. The results, in some ways at least, seem positive: per capita income has risen – about $ 16,000 in purchasing power parity in 2008, exactly double that in 2000, when it had already almost doubled compared to 1995 – and the unemployment fell (6% in 2008); the share of the population in poverty has almost halved, although income differences remain very strong; the public finances deficit improved; the incidence of debt has decreased, investments abroad have increased. However, the improvements were also obtained at the cost of stopping the development of many Siberian regions, reduced to areas of supply of raw materials and therefore in the process of deindustrialisation and devaluation, restoring a dualistic territorial structure that had been opposed for decades; after all, the country faces its strong foreign exposure only thanks to the sale of raw materials. It is estimated that further cuts in the production system are necessary, because about one third of all Russian companies would not be able to reach competitive conditions either due to incurable obsolescence or poor capitalization. It seems increasingly plausible that public and semi-public capital aims to regain control of the economic system, through the financial and energy sectors and the military-industrial complex which, after the attempted dismantling suffered during the 1990s, was the object of of modernization programs and significant funding.